Sunrise Movement

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Sunrise Movement
Sunrise Movement Logo.jpg
FoundedApril 2017 in Washington, D.C.[1]
Legal status501(c)(4)
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Area served
United States

Sunrise Movement is an American youth-led political movement coordinated by Sunrise, a 501(c)(4) political action organization that advocates political action on climate change. When first incorporated in 2017, the group's goal was to elect proponents of renewable energy in the 2018 midterm elections,[2] first in the Democratic primaries and then in the general election. After the election, the organization has been focused on gaining a consensus within the Democratic Party in support of an environmental program known as the Green New Deal.

Together with Justice Democrats and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the group organized a sit-in in the office of Nancy Pelosi, which brought Sunrise its first significant press coverage.[3] Sunrise organized a similar event in February 2019, bringing a group of young people to confront Senator Dianne Feinstein in her office.


In the summer of 2013, Evan Weber, Matthew Lichtash, and environmentalist Michael K. Dorsey used a $30,000 grant plus free office space provided by the Sierra Club and the Wesleyan University Green Fund to draft an ambitious plan for climate action, which was the basis for the incorporation of the US Climate Plan 501(c)(3) nonprofit (aka Sunrise Movement Education Fund) incorporated in January 2014.[1]

Sara Blazevic and Varshini Prakash started the Sunrise Movement on the East Coast in 2015. Blazevic, Prakash, and other early leaders trained at Momentum, an organization that teaches community organizing.[4]

The Sunrise Movement launched as a 501(c)(4) in 2017.[2] During the 2018 midterms, they worked to oust candidates who would not refuse funding from the fossil fuel industry and to elect proponents of renewable energy.[1] Half of the group's first 20 endorsements won their elections. Deb Haaland, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar won election to the House of Representatives and six other endorsed candidates won election to state house or senate seats in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.[5]

After the 2018 elections, the Sunrise Movement has focused on the climate change proposals collectively known as the Green New Deal, whose core principles have been described as "decarbonization, jobs, and justice."[3] Its proposals include a transition to renewable energy, expanded public transportation, and an economic plan to drive job growth. Several publications have reported that the Green New Deal opposes nuclear power and carbon capture as well as some other technologies.[6][7] However, Senator Ed Markey, the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the United States senate, stated that the resolution's language is technology-agnostic and does not exclude nuclear power or carbon capture.[8]

In March 2019, a group of activists in the UK called on the Labour party to commit to taking radical steps to decarbonise the UK economy within a decade. Calling their movement "Labour for a Green New Deal, a group spokesperson said they got their inspiration from the Sunrise Movement and the work that Ocasio-Cortez has done in the US. Group members have met with Zack Exley, co-founder of the progressive group Justice Democrats, to learn from the experiences that he and Ocasio-Cortez have had in working for the Green New Deal campaign in the US.[9]


November sit-in[edit]

After taking control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats disagreed about the best way to address climate change with legislation.[10] Sunrise planned a sit-in in Pelosi's office and asked Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help them publicize the event, which instead she decided to join herself.[3][11] The sit-in demands were that all members of the Democratic leadership in the House would refuse donations from the fossil fuel industry, and that Pelosi work to build consensus in the House over Green New Deal legislation to be passed when Democrats regain control of government.[12] The latter would be accomplished by a "Committee on a Green New Deal". The sit-in took place on November 13. Over two hundred and fifty protesters showed up to occupy Pelosi's office, with fifty-one being arrested by Capitol Police.[12][13] Representative Rashida Tlaib voiced support for the protest over social media.[12] Representative Pelosi responded by welcoming the protest over Twitter, offering to reinstate the Committee on the Climate Crisis and noting that the already-promised infrastructure bill could address many of the Sunrise Movement's concerns.[13]

Green New Deal Committee[edit]

One major goal has been to create a select committee on the Green New Deal, a plan opposed by some in the Democratic House leadership.[14]

The Sunrise Movement continued to campaign for House members to sign onto the plan to create a select committee for the green new deal, as opposed to simply resurrecting the old committee. On December 10, they staged a second sit-in at the offices of Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern. Over 1000 protesters showed up.[15][16] By December 19, 40 members of Congress had signed on to support the creation of the committee.[3]

Instead, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer decided to recreate the Committee on the Climate Crisis, appointing Representative Kathy Castor as chair.[3]

Meeting with Senator Feinstein[edit]

In February 2019, several San Francisco Bay Area children along with their adult sponsors met with Senator Feinstein to urge her to vote to support Green New Deal legislation. Feinstein told the children that she is working on an alternative bill, and that she could not support the proposed legislation which she believes is "unworkable" and has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate. However, she allowed that she might vote for it as a symbolic gesture. The Sunrise Movement shared a video of the interaction, shortened so that it "focused on clips of the most tense moments" via social media and on its website. The shortened version has been viewed more than three million times.[17][18] Sunrise also later posted the longer, unedited video on Facebook, resulting in controversy over whether the short version emphasized scenes intended to make Feinstein appear less sympathetic to the viewer.[19] Senator Feinstein characterized the discussion as "spirited", while the executive director of the Sunrise movement said that Feinstein's treatment of the students was evidence that the Democratic Party required "fundamental change".[20]

Climate Debate Sit-In at DNC[edit]

On Wednesday, June 26, around one hundred Sunrise Movement activists slept on the steps of the DNC office in Washington, D.C. to protest that lack of focus of the Democratic primary debates on the climate crisis, and to call a focused debate on Climate Change.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Matthews, Mark; Bowlin, Nick; Hulac, Benjamin. "Inside the Sunrise Movement (it didn't happen by accident)". E&E News. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sandoval, Michael (November 21, 2018). "Sunrise Movement Challenges House Democratic Leadership On 'Green New Deal'". Fairfield Sun Times. Retrieved February 26, 2019. The Sunrise Movement is registered as a 501(c)4, and launched with the goal of influencing the 2018 midterm elections, heavily emphasizing climate policies, and uniting volunteers and staff from the divestment movement and protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  3. ^ a b c d e Roberts, David. "The Green New Deal, explained". Vox. Retrieved February 3, 2019. The three core principles of the GND: decarbonization, jobs, and justice
  4. ^ Adler-Bell, Sam (February 6, 2019). "The Story Behind the Green New Deal's Meteoric Rise". The New Republic. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "Sunrise Movement Announces First Round of Endorsed Candidates". Medium. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Meyer, Robinson (January 18, 2019). "The Green New Deal Hits Its First Major Snag". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 19, 2019. Sunrise’s explicit goal is to keep average global temperatures from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  7. ^ January 10, 2019 proposal to legislators signed by the Sunrise Movement and 625 other groups
  8. ^ Roberts, David (April 16, 2019). "Sen. Ed Markey: "We are now in the era of the Green New Deal"". Vox. Retrieved April 17, 2019. As you correctly point out, the resolution does not mention nuclear power, it does not mention carbon capture and sequestration, it does not mention banning air travel, it does not mention banning beef in the United States. It does not mention any of those things...Nuclear power is not excluded, but it must compete with renewables. They are cheaper, but that’s the marketplace at work. We’re not excluding it.
  9. ^ Taylor, Matthew. "Labour members launch Green New Deal inspired by US activists". The Guardian. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Cama, Timothy; Lillis, Mike (October 17, 2018). "Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda". The Hill. The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a fierce environmentalist who ushered the cap-and-trade bill through the lower chamber almost a decade ago, declined to comment about the Democrats’ future climate plans.
  11. ^ Benjamin Wallace-Wells (January 17, 2019). "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Allies Supplanted the Obama Generation". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 16, 2019. Her first act when she arrived in Washington for new-member orientation was to join the Sunrise Movement’s sit-in outside Pelosi’s office, to call for a select committee for the Green New Deal. It started with a request for a retweet from the activists, who knew the young congresswoman and her staff only slightly. “Alexandria was, like, ‘Shoot them a retweet? I’m going to join it,’ ” Chakrabarti said.
  12. ^ a b c Matthews, Mark. "51 arrested for protesting Pelosi. Here's what they want". E&E News. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  13. ^ a b Grandoni, Dino. "The Energy 202: Green protests at Pelosi's office signal rift over Democratic climate strategy". Washington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  14. ^ Cama, Timothy (November 30, 2018). "Dems rally for Green New Deal". TheHill. Retrieved December 9, 2018. The idea of a select committee has the backing of leading Democrats, including expected Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) But it faces opposition from some other House Democrats in line to lead major committees, like Energy and Commerce’s Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Transportation and Infrastructure’s Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), who think their panels are suited to handle the task of major climate legislation themselves.
  15. ^ "Action Galleries". Sunrise Movement. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  16. ^ Blumberg, Antonia. "Protesters Arrested Outside Nancy Pelosi's Office In Climate Demonstration". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  17. ^ Beckett, Lois (February 23, 2019). "'You didn't vote for me': Senator Dianne Feinstein responds to young green activists". The Guardian. Retrieved February 28, 2019. By Friday night, the video the Sunrise Movement shared on Twitter, which had been edited and focused on clips of the most tense moments from the meeting, had been viewed more than 3m times.
  18. ^ Kelly, Caroline. "Dianne Feinstein's climate change discussion with schoolchildren gets heated". CNN. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  19. ^ "Judge for yourself: Full video of Dianne Feinstein talking to children about the Green New Deal". mcclatchydc. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Friedman, Lisa. "Dianne Feinstein Lectures Children Who Want Green New Deal, Portraying It as Untenable". Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  21. ^ "Young Climate Protesters Are Rattling The Democratic National Committee". BuzzFeed. Retrieved June 28, 2019.

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